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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chi Running Workshop

In early December I attended my first Chi Running workshop taught by the wonderfully refreshing and very knowledgeable Myriam Kane.  I've been wanting to write a post about this experience for a while now, but every time I sit down to do it I feel like I can't possibly do it justice.  I learned so much and enjoyed it immensely.

I first heard about Chi Running a couple of years ago, when I saw it mentioned in Runner's World.  I'll be honest and tell you that I thought it sounded kind of "gimmicky" at the time.  I kept hearing about it though - I read articles and blog posts about it and I listened to people share about it in my RRCA certification course - so finally I decided to buy the book (written by Danny Dreyer) and check it out for myself.  Right from the first page I read, it made sense to me.


The principles of Chi Running go hand in hand with those of Pilates (and you all know how I feel about Pilates!) - postural alignment and a strong core combine together to promote efficient, relaxed and pain-free movement.  I loved reading the book, but I always learn better when I can see it in action and having a teacher to answer my questions and address my personal concerns makes it sink in ten million times more.  For me, where the book was good - the workshop was excellent.

In addition to being a Chi Running coach, Myriam has a great background as a Pilates instructor, a runner and a nature lover.  I seriously cannot say enough good things about this woman.  Her professionalism, her enthusiasm, her depth of knowledge, her compassion and her positive attitude all add up to making me think she is perhaps one of the coolest ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet.  I cannot think of a better person to teach this workshop.

Myriam packed an incredible amount of information into the four hour session.  We covered a tremendous array of topics all related to running efficiently, relaxed, pain-free and strong.  There was so much information that resonated with me or made me think - light bulbs were going off in my head with nearly everything Myriam said!  I was in my element and just wanted to be a sponge, soaking up every word, every insight and tip.  I couldn't possibly apply every single lesson I learned after just one workshop, but I did come away from it with a few key takeaways and things that I am focusing on for myself.  I think even making just a few small changes and increasing my awareness is helping me to improve my running already.

Here are some of the things I learned that I am applying to my running now.  I think everyone who attended this workshop is probably focusing on different things at the moment, depending on their specific areas of weakness at the present time.  There were some things we talked about that I am already doing a lot of (myofascial release techniques and exercises to strengthen the core and increase flexibility, for example).  The below areas are what I am really focusing on, for now:

* Steps Per Minute: Research has shown that the most efficient runners take 180 steps per minute, no matter how fast they are moving.  I have tried counting my steps before and always come in closer to 165-170.  Myriam brought a metronome to our workshop and I was able to practice running at closer to 180 steps.  I enjoy listening to the beat in my head - for some reason it is relaxing for me.  It frees me to turn my brain off and I get into a nice rhythm. 

* Forward Lean: Leaning ever so slightly forward, with a strong and engaged core, proud and  relaxed shoulders, allows gravity to work for me.  If I keep my feet behind me at all times (shortening my stride out front, but lengthening it behind me like a wheel) and lean forward I will move much more efficiently.  My core and gravity will do the work for me - my legs will be along for the ride!

* Scanning My Body: Self awareness is extremely important while running (and always!).  During my run I make an effort to check in with myself periodically and notice if I am holding tension anywhere and see if I can release it.  I have a tendency to hold this in my shoulders when I run.  The simple act of bringing awareness to how I am carrying myself opens me up to letting go of it.  Then I am able to move so much more freely.

* Using My Arms:  Where my arms go, my legs will follow.  I want to focus on moving my arms forward (not pulling them back - always moving forward) from my shoulder to elbow as I move.  I relax my hands and my shoulders and keep my arms aligned properly (not crossing them over my body!) and I will be setting myself up for a much more efficient and free movement.

* Gradual Progression:  Changes are not going to happen overnight!  Becoming more self aware and strengthening your body is a gradual process.  It takes time and effort.  I love how Myriam talks about intentional movement - we have to be aware and accountable to how we carry our bodies, whether we are standing in line at the grocery store or running our fastest race.  Part of caring for our bodies is being aware of how we use them.  It takes conscious practice - daily - for all of us.

I really loved the Chi Running workshop and am so happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in it.  I truly think anyone can benefit from a session like this - whether you are new to running or are a seasoned racer.  There seems to always be room for improvement and increased awareness.  I think Chi Running offers workshops throughout the country, so if you are interested I encourage you to check out their web site and see if you can find one near you!

Have you ever read the Chi Running book or attended a workshop?  Did you find it helpful?  Have any questions for me about my experience?  I will do my best to answer!

12 comments:

Great post! I'm so glad you had such an awesome experience. I've always been so curious about Chi Running. I felt the same way when I heard about it and thought it sounded right up my alley. I think the idea of it almost sounds soothing to me. BUT before I read your post I'll admit I was a little hesitant about reading the book. Wasn't sure if I could benefit from just reading about a technique. I think after my initial reaction, I had the idea of it being too good to be true. I would really like to check out the book though :)

I had Myriam as my instructor last spring! She is fabulous! Good luck getting it down--I love everything Chi but I do find it hard to apply sometimes. Just so much to think about.

I'm glad you posted this. Honestly, every time I heard "Chi Running" I would roll my eyes and think it was a bandwagon thing. I haven't bothered even researching it, and I'm glad I read your post, because now this little gem has worked its way on to my amazon wishlist :)

This is all so interesting. I knew some of the form tips but I love how it focuses on overall body balance and attention as well. Thanks for sharing!

Great tips! We don't have anything even remotely like that here in my neck of the woods (desert?). I have definitely been practicing the 180 steps/per minute deal though. That is all I did when I was stuck on the Alter G. Step count and form, step count and form, step count and form. I think it has helped!

This is awesome!! When I first started to "get serious" about running about 5 years ago, I read Jack Daniels' Running formula - a lot of what you mentioned was in the book! I saw HUGE improvements when I started following what he said (especially the # of steps you take!). Taking an actual class sounds like a fantastic idea - so much more hands on =)

Thanks for sharing what you learned!

Great post, I read Chi Running many years ago but never actually tried it. I have just recently picked up the book to read again but I think after reading your post I would love to do an actual workshop. Thanks for posting!!!

Thanks for sharing this. I was introduced to the principles of Chi Running when I trained for my first tri years ago. It made a huge difference, especially during Brick workouts and the actual race when I needed to be able to run more efficiently. I've kind of forgotten about this so thank you for reminding me!

The CHI running book was one of the first running books I have ever read. While I didn't totally adapt the CHI running style, when I am getting tired during runs, I always remind myself of some of the techniques in order to relax and let my body run. I really feel it helps . I would love to go to a workshop sometime. Thanks for the review, I am going to be on a lookout for a local workshop now.

This is really interesting. I've heard about Chi Running before and after reading this post I am much more interested. I'll be looking for this book.

I recently attended a Good Form Running class, which basically teaches the same elements. The instructor told us to download songs with 180 bpm and it really helps me!

Those are all really great tips! I'm going to try the forward lean and see if it helps :)

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